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Sierra Club director objects to Lambertville housing proposal

The Sierra Club, as the oldest and largest conservation organization in the country, is always concerned about environmental stewardship. When we see a community where there’s a threat of overdevelopment and negative impacts to the environment we get involved.
This is especially true for a place like Lambertville, N.J., where we have so many dedicated members who are concerned about flooding and overdevelopment.
Lambertville is a wonderful community on the banks of the Delaware River. Lambertville is designated as rural and environmentally sensitive in the New Jersey State Plan. It is also part of the federally designated Lower Delaware Wild and Scenic River system and has a state park running through it.
The environment is critical to Lambertville’s economy, not only because of tourism but because of the return of the Shad Festival.
The mayor is trying to hide behind affordable housing to move forward with her overdevelopment plans for Lambertville. This includes building a new City Hall in a floodplain and moving the police station out of town. Even worse, she wants to put affordable housing on a site that is flood-prone, is likely contaminated, and has high-tension power lines running through it. This raises equity and Environmental Justice issues, which have always been important issues to the Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club and I have had a longstanding commitment to protecting Lambertville and working to benefit the community. I helped write the plastic bag ban ordinance in Lambertville, which is now used as a model for state legislation. We worked with Congressman Rush Holt and Sen. Frank Lautenberg to upgrade parts of the Delaware River to Wild & Scenic federal status, which offers not only environmental protections but also important recognition. We worked with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and others to get the Special Protection Waters designation under the DRBC to help protect Lambertville.
We worked with Green Acres to preserve Goat Hill and Lewis Island for open space. Sierra Club helped propose a program for upgrading streams to C1 status to the McGreevy administration, and the Sierra Club nominated Alexauken Creek to C1 status. Six years ago, Sierra Club started the battle against PennEast and organized communities here and along the route against it. We also paid for the informational placards along the D&R Canal to help tourism in the area.
I have a long personal and professional history working on affordable housing and environmental protections. I come from a family that was very active in the Civil Rights Movement, and I was involved at a young age. My family helped run Camp Midvale, the first interracial camp in New Jersey and I was at the 1963 March on Washington.
I was a founding member of the Coalition for Affordable Housing and the Environment. I have been living in Lambertville and working as the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club for over 22 years. I have worked hard to pass A500 and other important affordable housing legislation, worked with various communities.
The Sierra Club is committed to diversity and working on environmental justice. We get concerned when people try to use affordable housing as a way to hurt the environment and put people of modest means on contaminated lands or areas that flood.
Lambertville has always been a major part of the Sierra Club’s work. I also am guided by the Sierra Club national and state policies. This has everything to do with protecting Lambertville and Lambertville’s environment.
When you propose projects that will cause more flooding or more pollution and traffic, you threaten the environment. When you propose affordable housing on a potentially contaminated site that floods, you raise environmental justice and equity issues. That is why the Sierra Club is involved.
The mayor is saying that any criticism of her policies is a personal attack. This is a diversion from the real issues. Her policies have been wrong for Lambertville when it comes to the environment. These projects are entirely wrong for Lambertville, and Mayor Fahl knows it. She is trying to push through her new City Hall using the police station site for affordable housing as an excuse to turn the town over to developers.
It is like the old political adage, “If you don’t like the message, you attack the messenger.” For over 128 years, the Sierra Club has worked tirelessly to protect our environment and stand up for conservation and environmental stewardship. When a town is doing what is wrong, it is our duty and mission to call them out and try to get positive, progressive changes that protect the environment for now and future generations.
Jeff Tittel, Director
Sierra Club of New Jersey